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Canadian, UK Law Professors Condemn Space Mining Provisions of Commercial Space Act ( 107

MarkWhittington writes: The Commercial Space Launch Act, which includes provisions allowing American companies the right to keep resources that they mine in space, was recently signed into law by President Barack Obama. While the act has been hailed as groundbreaking in the United States, the space mining title has gotten an angry reaction overseas. In an article in Science Alert, Gbenga Oduntan, Senior Lecturer in International Commercial Law, University of Kent, condemned the space mining provisions as environmentally risky and a violation of international law. Ram Jakhu, a professor at Canada's McGill University's Institute of air and space law, adds that space mining is a violation of the Outer Space Treaty and should not be allowed.

2 Planets Can Share the Same Orbit, In 3 Different Ways 57

StartsWithABang writes: One of the most important characteristics of a planet, at least according to the IAU definition, is that it clear its orbit of all other bodies. But if we allowed for a special caveat — the possibility of two similarly-sized objects sharing the same orbit — could we have a stable configuration where that occurred? Surprisingly, not only is the answer yes, but there are three ways to do it: to have one at the L4/L5 Lagrange point of the other, to have a close-orbiting binary planet, or to have orbit-swapping worlds, where they periodically change spots with one another. Unbelievably, our Solar System has a history of all three!

NASA Prepares To Launch an Orion and 3 Cubesats To Deep Space: 3 Years To Go ( 45

MarkWhittington writes: As NASA has noted, the space agency and its contractors are working diligently on the first launch of the heavy-lift Space Launch System. The launch, officially called EM-1, or Exploration Mission 1, will loft an unpiloted version of the Orion spacecraft around the moon. also noted that a number of secondary payloads, known as CubeSats, will be along for the ride as well. NASA considered EM-1, scheduled for 2018, a crucial step in its Journey to Mars which will, it is hoped, reach its ultimate destination sometime in the 2030s.

Parts of Falcon 9 Launcher Wash Ashore In England 20

RockDoctor writes with news as reported by the BBC that parts of a Falcon 9 launcher have washed ashore on the Scilly Islands off the SW coast of Britain. Early impressions are that the pieces are from the failed Falcon 9 ISS launch which exploded after take-off in June. That's not the only possibility, though; according to the article, However Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said many experts believed, due to the size and markings which have now been revealed, it was from a different mission. "All the geeks have been getting together and looking at fine details, and we're pretty sure it's a launch from September 2014 that successfully sent a cargo mission to the space station. "It didn't look like an exploded rocket to me, it looked like a fairly normal piece of space junk when the lower stage of a rocket falls from a hundred miles up and hits the ocean. Large sections can remain in tact and it's really quite normal," he said.

Parts of the SpaceX Falcon-9 Rocket Found Off the Isles of Scilly ( 28

New submitter AppleHoshi writes: The BBC is reporting that a large chunk of the SpaceX Falcon-9 rocket, which exploded shortly after take-off from Cape Canaveral earlier this year, has been found 4,000 miles away, in the sea off the Isles of Scilly. The recovered section is approximately 10m (32ft) by 4m (13ft). It was discovered by a local coastguard patrol, though they didn't recognize it until they scraped off a layer of goose barnacles.

NASA Concludes That Comets, Not Alien Megastructures Orbit KIC 8462852 ( 102

MarkWhittington writes: Back in October, findings from the Kepler Space Telescope suggested that something strange was going on around a star called KIC 8462852. Kepler was built to detect exoplanets by measuring the cycles of dimming light from other stars, indicating that a large object was passing between them and Earth. But the dimming light cycle from KIC 8462852 seemed to suggest a lot of smaller objects swarming around it. Scientists narrowed down the explanations to either a swarm of comets or alien megastructures. NASA announced evidence garnered by two other telescopes that pointed to the comet explanation.

Russians Build Nuclear-Powered Data Center ( 57

judgecorp writes: The government-owned Russian energy company Rosenergoatom is building Russia's largest data center at its giant Kalinin nuclear power station. Most of the space will be available to customers, and the facility expects to be in demand, thanks to two factors: reliable power, and the data residency rules which require Russian citizens' data to be located within Russia. Facebook and Google don't have data centers within Russia yet — and Rosenergoatom has already invited them into the Kalinin facility.

Japanese Rocket Launches Its First Commercial Satellite ( 29

schwit1 writes: Using its H-IIA rocket, upgraded to lower cost, Japan launched its first commercial payload today, putting Canada's Telestar 12V into geosynchronous orbit. UPI reports: "Japan's Aerospace Exploration Agency said the H-IIA rocket was upgraded for the launch, permitting the satellite to stay closer to its geostationary orbit. Tokyo's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said he hoped the launch would exhibit the quality of Japan's rocket engineering, and that the successful launch would result in more orders from other global corporations. Following the launch, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries vice president Naohiko Abe said the firm plans to actively promote the H-IIA for satellite launches."

Neil deGrasse Tyson Touches Off Debate With Remarks On Commercial Space ( 345

MarkWhittington writes: In an interview published in The Verge, celebrity astrophysicist and media personality Neil deGrasse Tyson touched off a firestorm when he suggested that commercial space was not going to lead the way to open up the high frontier. Tyson has started a live show that he calls "Delusions of Space Enthusiasts" in which he touched on, among other things, why the Apollo program did not lead to greater things in space exploration such as going to Mars. Tyson repeats conventional wisdom about Apollo and the Cold War. In any case, it is his remarks on commercial space that has caused the most irritation.

Dark Matter Grows Hair Around Stars and Planets ( 164

StartsWithABang writes: Dark matter may make up 27% of the Universe's energy density, compared to just 5% of normal (atomic) matter, but in our Solar System, it's notoriously sparse. In particular, there's just a nanogram's worth per cubic kilometer, which makes the fact that we've never directly detected it seem inevitable. But recent work has demonstrated that Earth and all the planets leave a "wake" of dark matter where the density is enhanced by a billion times or more. Time to go put those dark matter detectors where they belong: in the path of these dark matter hairs.

Lori Garver Claims That NASA Is 'Wary' of Elon Musk's Mars Plans ( 103

MarkWhittington writes: Ars Technica reports that former NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver claimed, during a panel discussion at the Council for Foreign Relations, that many at NASA are "wary" of the Mars ambitions of SpaceX's Elon Musk. While the space agency has yielded low Earth operations to the commercial sector as part of the commercial crew program, it reserves for itself deep space exploration. Garver herself disagrees with that sentiment: "I thought, fundamentally, you just don’t understand. We’re not in a race in a swimming pool where everyone is racing against one another. We're in a cycling race where the government is riding point and the others are drafting behind us, and if someone comes alongside us and can pass us because they’ve found a better way, we don’t get out our tire pump and stick it between their spokes."

Blue Origin "New Shepherd" Makes It To Space... and Back Again ( 121

Geoffrey.landis writes: Blue Origin's "New Shepherd" suborbital vehicle made its first flight into space (defined as 100 km altitude)... and successfully landed both the capsule (by parachute) and the booster rocket (vertical landing under rocket power). This is the first time that a vehicle has made it into space and had all components fully recovered for reuse since the NASA flights of the X-15 in the 1960s. Check out the videos at various places on the web.
The Military

Turkey Downs Allegedly Intruding Russian Fighter Near Syria Border ( 592

jones_supa writes: Turkish fighter jets shot down a Russian Sukhoi SU-24 fighter near the Syrian border on Tuesday after repeated warnings over airspace violations. Moscow said it could prove the jet had not left Syrian air space. Footage from private Turkish broadcaster Haberturk TV showed the warplane going down in flames in a woodland area. Separate footage from Turkey's Anadolu Agency showed two pilots parachuting out of the jet before it crashed. A Syrian rebel group sent a video to Reuters that appeared to show one of the pilots immobile and badly wounded on the ground and an official from the group said he was dead. This is the first time a NATO member's armed forces have downed a Russian military aircraft since the 1950s. The Guardian is following the developments with live updates. Also covered by the BBC, which notes Russian aircraft have flown hundreds of sorties over northern Syria since September. Moscow says they have targeted only "terrorists", but activists say its strikes have mainly hit Western-backed rebel groups. Turkey, a vehement opponent of Syria's president, has warned against violations of its airspace by Russian and Syrian aircraft. Last month, Ankara said Turkish F-16s had intercepted a Russian jet that crossed its border and two Turkish jets had been harassed by an unidentified Mig-29.

Understanding the Antikythera Mechanism ( 75

szczys writes: We attribute great thinking to ancient Greece. This is exemplified by the Antikythera Mechanism. Fragments of the mechanism were found in a shipwreck first discovered in 1900 and visited by researchers several times over the next century. It is believed to be a method of tracking the calendar and is the first known example of what are now common-yet-complicated engineering mechanisms like the differential gear. A few working reproductions have been produced and make it clear that whomever designed this had an advanced understanding of complex gear ratios and their ability to track the passage of time and celestial bodies. Last year research by two scientists suggested that the device might be much older than previously thought.

NASA Contracting Development of New Ion/Nuclear Engines ( 70

schwit1 writes: NASA has awarded three different companies contracts to develop advanced ion and nuclear propulsion systems for future interplanetary missions, both manned and unmanned. These are development contacts, all below $10 million. However, they all appeared structured like NASA's cargo and crew contracts for ISS, where the contractor does all of the development and design, with NASA only supplying some support and periodic payments when the contractor achieves agreed-upon milestones. Because of this, the contractors will own the engines they develop, and will be able to sell them to other customers after development, thereby increasing the competition and innovation in the field.

How Close Are We To a Mars Mission? ( 173

destinyland writes: NASA is developing the capabilities needed to send humans to an asteroid by 2025 and Mars in the 2030s," reads the official NASA web site. But National Geographic points out that "the details haven't been announced, in large part because such a massive, long-term spending project would require the unlikely support of several successive U.S. presidents." And yet on November 4th, NASA put out a call for astronaut applications "in anticipation of returning human spaceflight launches to American soil, and in preparation for the agency's journey to Mars," and they're currently experimenting with growing food in space. And this week they not only ordered the first commercial mission to the International Space Station, but also quietly announced that they've now partnered with 22 private space companies.
United States

US and China Setting Up "Space Hotline" ( 15

Taco Cowboy writes: Washington and Beijing have established an emergency 'space hotline' to reduce the risk of accidental conflict. Several international initiatives are already in train to seal a space treaty to avoid a further build-up of weapons beyond the atmosphere. However, security experts say the initiatives have little chance of success. A joint Russia-China proposal wending its way through the UN was not acceptable to the US. An EU proposal, for a "code of conduct" in space, was having diplomatic "difficulties" but was closer to Washington's position.

New Spectroscope Perfect For Asteroid Mining, Planetary Research ( 56

Science_afficionado writes: Scientists at Fisk and Vanderbilt Universities are developing a new generation of gamma-ray spectroscope that is light weight, compact and don't require much power but have the capability for detecting veins of gold, platinum, rare earths and other valuable materials hidden within asteroids, comets, moons and other airless objects floating about the solar system. "A gamma-ray spectroscope records the intensity and wavelengths of the gamma rays coming from a surface. This spectrum can be analyzed to determine the concentration of a number of important, rock-forming elements ... The key to the new instrument is a recently discovered material, europium-doped strontium iodide (SrI2). This is a transparent crystal that can act as an extremely efficient gamma-ray detector. It registers the passage of gamma rays by giving off flashes of light that can be detected and recorded."

Netflix Remaking Lost In Space ( 167

An anonymous reader writes: Classic sci-fi show Lost in Space is making a comeback. Netflix is developing a new version of the series, according to Kevin Burns, the executive producer in charge of the project. "The original series, which lasted three seasons and 83 episodes, is set in a futuristic 1997 and follows the Robinson family's space exploration. After the villainous Dr. Smith (Jonathan Harris) sabotages the navigation system, they become helpless and, yes, lost. (The robot tasked with protecting the youngest child, the precocious Will, utters "Danger, Will Robinson!" — a phrase that still tortures this reporter.)" Burns has been trying to bring the series back for more than 15 years, and it looks likely he'll finally get his chance.

Florida Group Wants To Make Space a 2016 Presidential Campaign Issue ( 118

MarkWhittington writes: According to a story on News 13, an Orlando TV station, Space Florida is working to make space a political issue in the 2016 presidential election. Thus far the campaign for the presidency has been dominated by more mundane issues such as the economy, illegal immigration, and the threat of terrorism. Space Florida, which is "the State of Florida's aerospace economic development agency," is said to be "working with three other battleground states to make sure America's space program is a part of the campaign for president." Presumably one of those states is Texas, which has lots of electoral votes